Murray Bowen, M.D.
January 31, 1913 - October 9, 1990
Murray Bowen was born in Waverly, Tennessee to a family that had been in
Middle Tennessee since the Revolution. Waverly, which is located about sixty miles
west of Nashville in Humphreys County, was a town of approximately 1000
inhabitants in 1913 when Murray Bowen was born. He was the oldest of Jess Sewell
Bowen's and Maggie May Luff Bowen's five children. He attended primary and
secondary schools in Waverly, earned a B.S. degree from the University of
Tennessee, Knoxville in 1934, and an M.D. from the University of Tennessee Medical
School, Memphis in 1937. He then interned at Bellevue Hospital in New York City in
1938 and at the Grasslands Hospital in Valhalla, New York from 1939-41.
Following medical training, Murray Bowen served five years of
active duty with the Army during World War II, 1941-46. He served
in the United States and Europe, rising from the rank of Lieutenant
to Major. He had been accepted for a fellowship in surgery at the
Mayo Clinic to begin after military service, but Bowen's wartime
experiences resulted in a change of interest from surgery to psychiatry.
His psychiatric training was at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka,
Kansas, beginning in 1946. He became a staff member upon completion of his
formal training--although he had assumed staff-level responsibilities while still
in a training status--and remained at Menninger's until 1954. He then embarked on
a unique five-year research project at the National Institute of Mental Health
in Bethesda, Maryland. The project involved families with an adult
schizophrenic child living on a research ward for long periods of time.
Bowen left N.I.M.H. in 1959 to become a half-time faculty member in the Department
of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center. He became a Clinical
Professor, was Director of Family Programs, and in 1975 founded the Georgetown
Family Center. Dr. Bowen was the Director of the Family Center until his death.
He also maintained a private psychiatric practice at his home-office in Chevy
He was Visiting Professor in a variety of medical schools including the University
of Maryland, 1956-1963; and part-time Professor and Chairman, Division of Family
and Social Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, from 1964to 1978.
While at MCV he pioneered the use of closed-circuit television in family therapy.
Television was used to integrate family therapy with family theory.
Murray Bowen was a scholar, researcher, clinician, teacher, and writer. He worked
tirelessly toward a science of human behavior, one that viewed man as a part of
all life. He was very active in professional organizations, always wanting to
contribute in any way he could, usually trying to remind himself that there was
only so much he could do. He was a life fellow of the American Psychiatric
Association, the American Orthopsychiatric Association and the Group for the
Advancement of Psychiatry. He served two consecutive terms as the first President
of the American Family Therapy Association. His activities and prolific writings
led to many awards and much recognition. He was recognized as Alumnus of the Year
by the Menninger Foundation in 1985 and received the Distinguished Alumnus Award
from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1986.
He has been credited as being one of those rare human beings who had a genuinely
new idea. He had the courage to go against the psychiatric and
societal mainstream, to stand up for what he believed about human behavior. Thanks
to his efforts the world has been rewarded with a new theory of human behavior,
one with the potential to replace Freudian theory with a radically new method
of psychotherapy based on the new theory.